Look here for the latest updates from our team at the courthouse and in DC and NY are publishing in real time about this morning’s events at the federal courthouse in DC. But let me note a side point, which is quite interesting. Paul Manafort’s team has been putting out disinformation about this deal for a couple weeks now. I don’t put this out as a criticism or not. It just is what it is. And frankly, in a purely pragmatic light, it made a lot of sense to do that. This had to be secret until the last possible moment, especially from the President. He needed the element of surprise. And he got it.
If you’re a regular reader you know that I’ve been wrestling for like a week with what was going on here. Was Robert Mueller really going to make a plea deal that didn’t include cooperation? When securing cooperation seemed certainly to be the point of the entire exercise? How could that be? There were a slew of news reports and all of them either clearly said that Manafort’s cooperating was not part of the investigation or that it was not clear whether cooperation was part of the investigation.
The first axiom of the Trump/Russia scandal is that the Mueller office does not leak. It’s really that open and shut. So by definition, all the reporting came from Manafort and/or his legal team. As someone who fell for the ruse, it is almost beyond belief that they could pull this off: have reporting come out about plea negotiations but plausible claim that, and make people think that, it was a plea without any agreement to cooperate. And yet, there you have it. Pretty much they pulled it off.
The really relevant point wasn’t news media coverage per se. It was what the President and his lawyers knew. It seems pretty clear they were duped too. They did not see it coming. There were many bad things that could have happened if this were telegraphed far in advance, as Michael Cohen – with a very different set of facts – was doing. In the end, Trump was like Tony in the final episode of The Sopranos. He never saw it coming.